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Driver: San Francisco Review

See PixlBit's Review Policies

On 11/26/2011 at 07:01 PM by Matt R

Crazy Taxi and Need For Speed's illegitimate, violent son.

For those looking for a driving game but are tired of racing, and for those who haven't already burned themselves out on Burnout, Driver: SF could be fairly entertaining. If you have a PS3 or 360, don't bother with the Wii version.

Whether due to hardware limitations or a reputation for simpler fare, the Wii hasn't seen much of the sandbox/open world genre. Considering the drop in horsepower and the inability to implement the “switch to any car, any time” gameplay, I'm surprised Ubisoft bothered making this Wii version at all. Still, effort was clearly spent in building this version from the ground up -- it uses the pointer controls for shooting (which is very handy), and it's got DS connectivity (remember this feature, Nintendo?). It does a decent job creating a large San Francisco-looking city to drive around in, free of load times. However, too many bad ideas and cut corners make it all seem pretty average.

Instead of adopting the style of a cheesy cop show from the 70s/80s like its HD counterpart, Driver: San Francisco Wii has more of a comic book tone in regards to the story cutscenes and dialogue (it's rated T for teen, after all). It throws realistic physics out the window, then backs over them multiple times to make sure they're dead. Mail boxes and picket fences bounce around like an exercise ball on the moon. Your car has over-the-top melee “attacks” that are Herbie the Love Bug-esque: flicking the remote forward, left, or right lunges the car in that direction the way a child might pick up a Hot Wheels car and smack it into the car next to it. It's really cartoony but it makes destruction easier; I like it. You can also tilt the remote and drive on two wheels like in every Herbie movie, and there's even a mission where you break Lindsay Lohan out of jail! (Just kidding.)

Much of the gameplay is recycled from Crazy Taxi and Need For Speed and the result is the same as tossing last week's empty pizza box with still-attached fossilized cheese guts onto the Thanksgiving dinner table. There are numerous point-A-to-point-B missions, smash the other car missions, a few races, and lots of police chases. Some token effort is made to use the pointer controls differently; one mission type involves pointing at a car to record a conversation and another involves tilting the remote like an antenna so that a targeted vehicle will show up on the radar; and of course there's the DS connectivity which lets another player set up road blocks. But don't let their minimal creativity fool you; Ubisoft has devised the most heinous game-padding mechanic since Uno's Draw Four card. Besides a very short time limit always looming, there is also the fact that nearly every initial mission objective is driving to point B before the “real” objective is given. Not only is the reason always arbitrary, not only have you already driven to a point on the map just to initiate the mission, but failing the second or third objective means you usually have to do the drive-to-point-B objective all over again. There's also some unfortunate rubber banding AI; if you get caught up in even a minor traffic jam, the targeted vehicle will often zoom half a block ahead at double nitro speed.

Cruis'n USA fans should be happy; you've got your generic muscle car, a generic red sports car, a generic 4x4, a police car, a fire truck, and a few others. Sadly, they all have a simplistic range of steering and handling abilities (bigger ones are slower and heavier, sportier ones accelerate faster). You can drive any of the vehicles and mess around in San Francisco all you want, but for actual missions you'll mainly be limited to those first three. Open world, my foot.

Your choices are somewhat limited and so is the presentation. The tire screeching sound effect drives me crazy. It's easily triggered by slight turns at low speeds. If I turn the sound effects down, I won't hear important objective details. I can't use classic controls or change button configurations; there are only two camera views, neither one with an angle from behind the steering wheel; the purchaseable upgrades are unlocked in a staggered, opaque manner; the water effects and breakable object physics look like they were exhumed from the N64 era. But the most unsettling thing about Ubisoft's many cost-cutting measures is probably that it all looks like something out of a Twilight Zone episode. There are no recognizable store signs, and aside from the comic book-styled main story cutscenes, there are no people either. Even the drivers' seats in all the other cars appear empty! In the cutscenes explaining the objectives, the camera just rests on the car's door while invisible characters talk. Is it too much to ask for some hippies to run over?

Driver: SF tries to make up for some of its shortcomings with hidden collectables, achievements, and multiplayer features. There are arcadey on-rail shooting mini-missions, “pass the bomb,” police chase, and capture the flag, among several other simple time-wasters. A second player can also jump into the story mode as a second gun, which is the one multiplayer mode that is useful. But they are all paltry table scraps compared to what's in the HD version.

Being able to accurately fire a gun while driving is probably the one thing it does best, so if you're completely starved for a wackier Grand Theft Auto style of game that lets you smack into cable cars, run from the cops, and shoot up Uncle Jesse's home town, it will keep you busy for around 8-10 hours or more.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




02/04/2012 at 04:44 AM


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